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 New here / intro
Author: leslieg 
Date:   2004-01-12 06:25


I am very happy to have found this list. (I didn't think to look for such a thing until tonight.) I am Leslie, I live in Austin, TX. My husband and I are avid international folk dancers. A few years ago I decided to "dust off" my old clarinet (unplayed for 20 years since high school) and I've been having a lot of fun ever since. It is a Noblet (I've no idea what model). My heart was immediately drawn to Greek (how I wish back in high school I knew the clarinet could do that -- I would have never stopped), but being in an international group my playing opportunties are (tunes from) all over Europe. I am now in a small band (me, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, accordian / saz?, upright bass) and we play Serbian, Croation, Greek, Bulgarian, and who knows what all else. I've been finding my style all on my own; the only guidance I've received is when I found out last year that "many" folk clarinetists use very soft reeds. I have had wonderful success with the Rico plasticover reed, currently at 2 1/2, but I just ordered some softer to see if that is even better.

I noticed a while ago Chris posted about playing brass band music on the clarinet. My bandleader forced me into this after we learned the dance "Hora Lautareasca" (a Coconiasa) last year at our annual Texas Folk Dance Camp. He wanted us to play it. I thought "great, how am I going to imitate a muted trumpet??". But I've always loved goofing around with the sounds I can make ... I played it "normal" at rehearsal, it was OK, then I got up the nerve to play a little of it in my "goof off" mode. Jaws dropped. I'm so happy that I get to play in a way I think is a lot of fun and people think it is really good! (Wow!) I guess it would be described as using a lot of verbrato. The accordian backs off a lot as I don't stay on the notes all that well ...

Questions: I know just about nothing about the clarinet. I have never taken lessons. I have been told I play consistantly flat. I also think I should get a second mouthpiece as many of the IFD tunes I do (e.g. Italian, Romanian) need a harder reed / cleaner sound, and having 2 mouthpieces with different reeds seems to make sense. I don't know where to begin to find a good mouthpiece (that fits and may help undo the flatness) -- I'd love to find one that helps me really bring out the ethnic sounds. I have a Vandorn V360 now.

Enough for now, except a final "drool". I was able to see Yuri Y & Ivo P. at the Texas Accordian festival a few months ago. I was also forturnate enough to get a small-group lesson (2 accordians and me) from Neshko (he tought us a Recenica he wrote). I'm glad the lesson was before their performance, or I never would have had the guts to sit in that room.

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 Re: New here / intro
Author: Katrina 
Date:   2004-01-12 15:01

Hi Leslie!

Congrats on your successes with playing ethnic music! I've been at it for almost 10 years now, and won't ever stop. I was fortunate enough though to have studied clarinet all through high school and college, and I still play classical and teach, but the Bulgarian, Greek, and Albanian stuff has my heart, to say the least.

Some suggestions:

1. While I don't know the V360 mp myself, I'd suggest finding a place where you could sample a few others. The Bulgarians use Vandy 5JB's with 1.5-2 reeds. When I had a lesson with Ivo when he was here in town, I forgot to ask which specific reed he uses. The teacher I had in Bulgaria two years ago used Plasticover 1.5's, and a 5JB. Another mp to consider (IMO) are the Vandy B45DOT. I'm able to mimic the Bulgarian sound with that and a #3 Legere. The real Bulgarians can tell the diff, but if I have to play something Scandinavian right after a wild gankino or rachenitsa, it works for me.

2. Get some lessons now...it's never too late! You could find a teacher in your area to give you some basic technical pointers and equipment advice as well even if they don't understand Balkan stuff.

3. Go to Balkan Music/Dance camp! The website is: http://www.eefc.org and they put on two great weeks each year. I know Texas is a little out of the way from either Mass. or Mendocino, but if you can swing the trip it is definitely worth it.

4. As far as playing flat, the fix for that usually is to increase your wind speed. The most effective way to do this is to have the back of your tongue in an "eeee" position. Additionally, use abdominal pressure to give your tone good air support. See #2 above...

p.s. Do you know the accordionist Shirley Johnson?

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 Re: New here / intro
Author: ChrisC 
Date:   2004-01-12 16:56

Hi Leslie--good to see a new face (and a new post!) around these parts.

For Balkan music, I have settled upon a 5JB and Legere #2, and couldn't imagine a better setup for myself. I also couldn't imagine playing a racenica on a #3 reed, but personal preference/necessity obviously plays a major role in performing folk music. I understand entirely your desire to use different mp/reed combinations for different styles of music, and I have an alternate setup of Vandoren 3 1/2 with a Vandoren M15 mouthpiece for klezmer music, which I suppose is fairly close to Romanian. I've never "switched off" on a tune-by-tune basis, though.

Anyway, stick around!

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 Re: New here / intro
Author: leslieg 
Date:   2004-01-12 22:31

Yes, I know Shirley Johnson. She coordinated the Texas Camp Band this year; she did a great job. We worked together on a Serbian music workshop last year.

It seems like I've got to find a store that will let me try different mouthpieces. Is this something stores commonly do? (Not to mention they may not generally stock the kind I'm looking for). Do online stores let you return a mouthpiece you tried out?

There is a man in my area (Mark Gilston) who used to play ethnic clarinet but now concentrates on the gaida. He's willing to give me lessons. I'm never too sure what to ask for in a lesson though. I guess since I now have pieces we practice regularly in the band I could focus on improving those (such a variety! Greek Hatzisterios, Romanian? Trava, Serbian Orijent). I always feel very self-concious in lessons. I learned the violin from lessons -- I had a great instructor, but in that case I was learning the instrument from the very start.

Balkan camp is very tempting. We usually know at least one person who goes to at least one of them every year. My husband would be really happy. I've got to check the dates this year -- he goes to Poland for a conference in late June / early July. Also, we have a 2.5 year old and going to camps is trickier than I anticipated. (We've managed a few though).

I've got to assume my airflow is good, but it surely needs work. One problem with playing tunes not designed for the clarinet is that there is so often no place to breathe, and playing for dancers means you repeat at least 4 times. What gets especially triky are those tunes that I sing when I'm not playing or play when I'm not singing, getting about 1/2 breath between the activities. OK, maybe my breath control is good but my airflow isn't?


p.s. What is the email used to send these posts? My spam filter removed these replies before I saw them, so I've got to tweak some settings...

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 Re: New here / intro
Author: Katrina 
Date:   2004-01-13 02:53

Hi Leslie,

Say hi to Shirley for me. She won my tarot reading at the benefit EEFC auction a couple of years ago at Ramblewood.

Can't answer your techie question about email answers to the board...

However, if you can...you should lay out on repeats or phrases of tunes you find difficult to play. In the beastly pravos I end up playing, there are plenty of phrases which are played tutti, which means I can "slip out" for a 4 or 8 bar segment.

My other hint on breathing...breathe with an "O" shape to your throat. It'll enable you to get more air in quickly. Easier said than done in 15/16, but keep working on it!

All the best,

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 Re: New here / intro
Author: Mark Charette 2017
Date:   2004-01-13 03:10

leslieg wrote:

> p.s. What is the email used to send these posts? My spam filter
> removed these replies before I saw them, so I've got to tweak
> some settings...

The email is sent from "nowhere@woodwind.org".

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 Re: New here / intro
Author: Kalakos 
Date:   2004-01-13 03:15

You might try a "close" mouthpiece (with a narrow bore) and a 1 or 1 1/2 reed for Greek music. Some of the Greek "klaritzides" narrow the mouthpiece inside by melting some wax in there.
I finally found (after years of trying all kinds) that Borbeck #16 or #16 (expensive but good) worked really well.
Good luck in your endeavors.
(John Pappas)
PS I taught at a couple of the Texas Thanksgiving camps years ago and had a great time jamming with some of the folks!

Kalakos Music

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 Re: New here / intro
Author: mike 
Date:   2004-03-04 17:44

I am also new here.
I would love to know if anyone knows of clarinet teachers in Bulgaria - I thought I had read that Katrina had studied there - I am very interested in learning Eastern European, gypsy, etc. clarinet - I will be travelling to Europe this spring and any information would be greatly appreciated.

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 Re: New here / intro
Author: Katrina 
Date:   2004-03-04 18:50

The guy I learned with in Bulgaria lives in a small village outside of Plovdiv. That is, he lives there when he's not in Sofia playing at a restaurant gig. I do not know what restaurant he plays at (or did in 2001)...

My advice would be to find someone here who would know someone there. I do know an accordionist in Silistra (NE corner) whose brother lives here, but I do not have any contact with the guy I met near Plovdiv. I have friends here who have relatives there, and when I met Ivo Papasov the first time (1.5 years ago) he said I should just have asked where he was so that I could study with him. I do not think he was too serious, though!  ;)

One idea would be to go to a restaurant where there is someone playing and start talking to them. If you have any languages in common, that helps, but I made it through Bulgaria with a small dictionary and a small phrasebook and prior knowledge of Cyrillic as well as some basic grammar. Oh...another idea...go to the folk music school in the area (I think Plovdiv's is most-highly regarded) and see if you can find someone to help there...

Sorry I can't be of more specific help.


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